If you grew up a football fan in my generation, you grew up playing EA Sports' NCAA Football. It was just what people did. I can still remember battling 2001 Miami with the LaDainian Tomlinson-led TCU Horned Frogs, and stumbling into Steven Jackson and James Newson at Oregon St in 2003. And who could forget our own Golden Era with Pat, Steve, and Co. from 2005-2008?
Anyways, between injuries and transfers its been a rough spring for the Old Gold and Blue, so when a buddy suggested this as an idea for a pick-me-up piece, naturally I loved it. Not only do I still yearn for some Dynasty Mode like once a week, but our team is actually pretty fun to think about this year from a video game perspective (read: we have some fun skill players). So here they are: your 11 most fun West Virginia Mountaineers as they'd appear in NCAA 19. Thanks to the power of Madden 18 and poorly done Photoshop work, you can visualize what these guys would look like on a current generation system.
QB 7 - 94 OVR (Playmaker)
Notable attributes: SPD 86, AGI 85, AWR 89, THP 95, THA 92
It took Will Grier all of about 7 passes to win over West Virginia fans during the Gold-Blue Game last spring. It wouldn't take him half that long to win over the online gaming community. Grier had one of college football's most prolific arms last season, completing 250 of his 388 passes for 3490 yards and 34 touchdowns in just over 10 games, and his high national profile and Heisman hype mean he'd likely be fairly rewarded with regards to relevant passing attributes.
However, what the gaming community really likes are guys who can run, and as much of a joy as it is to watch the BFG sling it, many of his most spectacular plays last year were made with his legs. The casual observer might not appreciate Will's athleticism, but the hardened NCAA vet would surely scroll through the rosters and immediately recognize him as the prototypical video game quarterback that he is - a pass-first runner with the arm to drill that crucial "All Verticals" seam route and the legs to take advantage of the AI in blown coverage. There are some guys that will probably be drafted than higher than Will next year, but I'm not sure that any of them would be as fun to play with on the digital gridiron.
LB 11 - 92 OVR (Playmaker)
Notable Attributes: SPD 87, ACC 87, AWR 90, TAC 94, POW 92
In real life David Long is one of those guys that you just don't have to worry about. Once the whistle blows, he's always in the right place at the right time, and he always seems to make the play. That combination of instincts and athleticism led ProFootballFocus to name him a 2nd team All-American, despite the fact that he only appeared in 9 games. I imagine that his digital self would perform similarly, and when combined with the fact that I was always more of a "User FS" type of guy, I'm not sure how much I'd really control Long on NCAA. But I'm also sure he'd be plenty involved on his own. He's one of those guys that you call plays for whether you're controlling him or not.
WR 13 - 91 OVR (Playmaker)
Notable attributes: SPD 90, AGI 91, ACC 91, CTH 93, JMP 95
If there's one compliment that you can pay to David Sills' 2017 campaign that's exceedingly relevant to this article, it's that he was so good for most of last year that it'd actually be hard to replicate in-game. There's really no other way to put it: prior to Will's injury last year, David Sills was a video game. In 10 games with Grier at QB, Sills caught 55 balls for 849 yards and 18 touchdowns on the way to finishing 2nd in the Biletnikoff race. It didn't matter who or how many guys opposing defenses threw at him, if he was in the red zone and Will looked his way, odds were that he was coming down with the ball. There aren't many guys in a given season that can legitimately turn 50/50 balls into 60/40 or even 70/30 balls, but Sills is one of them. He's the guy you finagle into the slot with personnel changes to take advantage of the aforementioned "All Verticals" package.
WR 12 - 88 OVR
Notable Attributes: 88 SPD, 86 AGI, 95 RTE, 95 CTH, 86 STR, 89 AWR
Gary Jennings' play style means that he tends to get lost in shuffle occasionally when talking about our talented skill position guys, but I shudder to think about where we would have been without him last year. Jennings quietly finished 4th nationally in catches, but more importantly, he was so good on 3rd down that we hardly even missed a guy like Daikiel Shorts. This type of skill set doesn't translate as well to video games as someone like, say, Marcus Simms, but you know where you're looking on 3rd down when you audible to a "Sticks" route.
RB 4 - 86 OVR
Notable Attributes: SPD 90, AGI 90, ACC 90, STR 78, JKM 88, CTH 83
I didn't push this too hard in my previews or reviews last year because I don't really like shitting on our guys publicly during the season (not that they'd read it anyways), but if you were a fly on the wall of Musket Slack or one of my several WVU-related text chains you would've seen me quietly advocating for Kennedy McKoy over Justin Crawford for most of last season. It was the Shell-Smallwood debacle all over again, where one guy had better experience and pedigree while the other guy was simply better. Well, with Crawford gone we finally get the chance to see what Kennedy looks like as the feature back this year, and if he's anywhere near as good as I expect him to be then it's a shame that we don't have the opportunity, nay, the privilege, nay, the pleasure, of using him in digital form. On paper, he's the prototypical modern running back - talented enough to find holes, explosive enough to get through them, fast and elusive enough to turn average gains into big ones, and versatile enough to catch balls out of the backfield or even line up out wide. And fortunately, the way someone looks on paper is usually directly proportional to the way they're rated in a video game. I'm drooling just thinking about the mismatches that you could create between Kennedy, the guys out wide, and Pettaway behind him. Split backs -> motion Kennedy to slot -> hot route -> profit. All. Day. Long.
FS 2 - 86 OVR
Notable Attributes: SPD 88, ACC 87, ZCV 86, TAC 86, AWR 84
Finally we get to my guy. As mentioned above, I used to love patrolling center field with the free safety in our base 3-3-5, so you can imagine my hypothetical excitement at the possibility of playing with a guy like Kenny Robinson. Robinson is one of those guys who you can just tell has a great feel for the game - the way he reads eyes, the timing of his breaks, his instincts, it all comes together to get him going to the right spots and makes him look probably half-a-step faster than he is. Now in NCAA you'd have to take care of a lot of that yourself, but it'd be hard not to be excited about the physical package at your disposal. Robinson is extremely long and athletic, and in a practiced hand (read: mine, circa 2013) he could control the entire middle of the field.
WR 8 - 85 OVR
Notable Attributes: SPD 96, AGI 90, ACC 95, CTH 83, AWR 75
Marcus Simms would be a favorite of what the online FIFA community refers to as "pace whores". Simply put, he'd be effective in the game simply as a function of his speed. Simms would be a KR/PR mainstay, and is definitely the guy you'd look at on one of those PA bombs, or even more abusively, on one of those super shallow crosses where you happen to recognize man coverage and know before the play that if you complete the pass he's going to score.
SS 6 - 85 OVR
Notable Attributes: SPD 86, AGI 86, AWR 84, MCV 85, ZCV 86
The sad thing about Dravon is that he probably would've been rated higher than this heading into his sophomore year had the game existed. Alas, it didn't, and since then Dravon has injured a knee and looked shaky in his first year back as a full-time starter. Therefore, I feel that this is fair. The guy's still an above average player, but didn't quite look like his old self last year.
LB 10 - 84 OVR
Notable Attributes: SPD 82, AGI 82, STR 84, AWR 82, TAC 87
Dylan Tonkery defied the odds twice last year, first when he won a starting linebacker job as a redshirt freshman and second when he actually player pretty well for a first-year starter. He's definitely a guy who's going to benefit from time in the S&C program, but his instincts looked solid and he was generally in the right spots. Certainly not a bad compliment to David Long.
SS 8 - 81 OVR
Notable Attributes: SPD 87, ACC 87, AWR 75, TAC 83, STR 75, ZCV 83, MCV 81
What's this? Isn't Kyzir White headed to the NFL? Then who's SS 8?
Kwantel Raines made Christmas come five days early last year when he announced that he was committing his college future to WVU. As exciting as this was in real life, I'd be lying if I told you that my mind didn't at least broach the subject of how fun it'd be in NCAA. Raines has everything you'd look for in a safety - the size, the athleticism, the instincts - and it'd be awesome to watch him blossom on Dynasty mode.
DE 55 - 80 OVR
Notable Attributes: SPD 76, AGI 81, ACC 81, STR 82, POW 83, TAC 83
Dante Stills is another one I'd be looking to throw into the fire right away. Some of that decision would admittedly be down to the recent hits that our depth has taken, but a bigger part of it would be related to the fact that he's a highly talented legacy kid and the son of one of my favorite Mountaineers growing up. I know myself, and I know that I'd get wayyyy too much enjoyment out of being able to line the Stills bros up next to one another.
So, now that we’re all nostalgic for the NCAA Football series - there’s a good chance I spend way too much money to buy a used 360 and NCAA ‘14 - tell us about your greatest accomplishments and achievements in the comments below.